If the words “Passover lamb” don’t get you to thinkin’ about Jesus, then I hope my thoughts about this chapter will. Mmmmm hmmmm, I saw me some Jesus in today’s reading. While reading about all the sacrifices that had to be made in order for the Passover celebration to take place, a few things kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. For one, and probably the most important one of all, if you are having trouble understanding Jesus, this chapter might help. And two, which also is super important because I am not good at it myself, if you are having trouble explaining Jesus to others, I hope the events in this chapter help with that, too.
Let’s look first at the sheer numbers of animals that are slaughtered here: the initial offerings consisted of 30,000 lambs/young goats and 3,000 cattle; additional offerings totaled 7,600 lambs/young goats and 800 cattle. So, altogether, that’s 37,600 lambs/young goats and 3,800 cattle that were slaughtered for a single celebration that was to occur once a year. Now, if you remember correctly, back in Moses’ day, God ordered the Israelites to host several of these celebrations throughout the year, and now-King Josiah has just discovered that his people of Judah haven’t done any of these things for decades. That’s just some background, though, and a little off topic. Let’s get back to the thousands of animals being killed for a single celebration. Now, don’t get me wrong with what I’m about to say. The Passover celebration sounds like a grand event that I definitely would have wanted to be part of. I imagine it was like a little Heaven on Earth: tons of meat, fellowship, dancing and constant singing of praise and worship songs. But also, on the downside, it was a lot of work. It took a ton of organization, and it depended on participation. And we all can see how traditions like these fizzled out through a slew of bad kings and people who just didn’t want to go to the trouble anymore. And while wonderful kings like Josiah did come along every few years and revive the traditions, which were established to promote, celebrate and strengthen the Israelites’ relationship with God, they just didn’t last, much like events that maybe you’ve seen come and go in your home town. When the right people aren’t around to make them go, they just won’t go. And after years and years and years, this made God woefully sad. BUT, while God could have just said, “You know what, I’m done with you people. You’re hopeless.” He didn’t. Because throughout history, just like in today’s story, God always sees hope in us humans … somewhere. So, he made a plan and called him Jesus. He was just as human as anyone, but he had God’s heart and soul. He felt things. People loved him (well, a lot of people loved him). He established a relationship with thousands of men, women and children during his time on earth. But these people weren’t celebrating the Passover anymore. They weren’t sacrificing lambs and goats and cattle in order to maintain a relationship with God. It had become too much work. The traditions had been lost through time. And no one like King Josiah had bothered to try and bring them back for years and years and years and years and years. God was sad, and He was desperate. So, he sent Jesus, who was in essence, Himself, to feel physically what we humans feel so that maybe, just maybe He could understand us – imagine that … understand us, the people He created – a little better. And as Jesus, He said over and over again in the Scriptures, “Ok, forget killing the thousands of animals. You don’t have to do that anymore, but let’s at least get together and have a meal and have fellowship and just be together like we used to in the good ol’ days. I get that traditions change. Let’s adapt.” And lots of good folks did, and a few of those good folks who appreciated it and understood it and got to be part of it wrote about it so that we might understand it more today because a lot of people don’t understand how Our God could have sacrificed his own son. On a basic level it seems cruel and murderous. But when we know the original story of the sacrificial lamb and the history of the celebration around it, and the thousands of animals that were supposed to be slaughtered each year for it, we then can better understand ourselves the reason for Jesus. And I don’t type that to sound cutesy or cliche, but let me elaborate on my thoughts a little more and ‘tis the reason for the season, which seems weird to talk about in July, but I’m gonna. I know many people think Christmas and Easter are just pagan holidays created by candy companies, and I’m not saying that’s not a good theory, but I’m saying these “new” holidays, the traditions that have evolved into what many of us as Christians have grown up celebrating, resemble the foundations of the celebrations of past: they center around worshiping God and fellowship, minus the sacrifices of 40,000+ animals. I mean, we’re not counting barbecues and roasted turkeys, but you certainly could if you wanted to for this example, but we don’t have to because … Jesus. And I probably did not do my thoughts about Jesus any justice today. I didn’t even get into communion and the beautiful act of sharing a meal and time together, which is what the original celebrations were all about. But we just couldn’t keep up with them, so God, in His great mercy, sent his son, who gathered with his best friends for a meal just before he went to the cross as our sacrificial lamb, and in the most famous toast possibly ever made, he said, “Do THIS to remember me,” as he prepared to share a meal with friends, but in that sentence, when we look at the reasons for his entire being, Jesus’ words also imply, sigh, “If you can’t do all that other stuff I asked you to do in the first place, AT THE VERY LEAST do THIS (gather for a meal and fellowship) for me … because I’m getting ready to do something for you that you will never fully comprehend.
Writing prompt: sacrifice
Write your thoughts about the sacrifices made during the past celebrations designated in Moses’ day compared to the final sacrifice of Jesus and how you do or can better celebrate and recognize that sacrifice today.